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Separated Parents in Dispute: Eight Questions Before Running to Court….

August 12, 2017
Let’s say to are heading to trial to settle your differences. You each have lawyers at the cost of between $3,000 to $5,000 per day of trial. (This doesn’t include pre-trial preparation.) The trial is set for 5 days. That means you both have to budget at least $15,000 – $25,000 or cumulatively, $30,000 to $50,000. This of course will be on top of some $5,000 to $10,000 each spent ramping up to trial.
Now, let’s say that the judge is getting over a cold; had a bad day, lost their dog; recently broke up with their partner, etc.
Now let’s say that throughout the trial, both parents did their best to undermine the perspective as well as the character of the other.
Now let’s say at the end of trial, you win!
Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Have you thought about the fact that your judge was born human?
  2. Have you thought about the fact that your conflict is your lawyer’s income?
  3. How will the other parent feel about your win?
  4. How will the other parent feel about the co-parenting relationship where you have won and they were trashed in the process?
  5. What will the ongoing parenting relationship be like?
  6. What is the likelihood that even with a court order, the other parent will follow through meaningfully as ordered?
  7. What is the likelihood that the other parent’s resentment may show up in poor behavior either to yourself and to you through the child?
  8. How long before you think the other parent will try to undo the court order by seeking a retrial or by waiting while gathering more evidence to return to court?
When you think about winning, you must also think about the consequences of winning.
Very often parents have a unrealistic view that winning resolves matters. This just isn’t necessarily true. More to the point, winning may make matters worse.
For all the above, the cost of a trial, financially, emotionally and in terms of ongoing and escalated conflict, going to court may be a poor decision.
A joint budget of $30,000 to $50,000 goes a long way towards mediation or collaborative law where the processes don’t rely on the parties trashing each other to win at the expense of the other. To add, rarely are there these kind of expenses unless going to trial. These and other peacemaking approaches to settling disputes are available where in the end, people are left feeling intact. Because the agreement is achieved jointly, you both have buy in and thus both are more likely to follow through and maintain whatever agreement is achieved.
My dad used to impress upon me, “You can win the battle yet lose the war”. You can win at court and still lose in the long run.
In the end seek an outcome that can foresee a life-long relationship with your kids where they can grow up less affected by the parental conflict able to take on life’s responsibilities. Seek an outcome where your kids can feel good about themselves because they recognize they are part of both parents.
Do that and then you may have happy kids.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

  1. Gina jordan permalink

    Excellent Gary. This will a great help in explaining this concept to parents. Sometimes they don’t even know exactly what the “win” means.

  2. Gary – just shared this insightful commentary on my FB page. Always loved following you on NPEN listserv (in which I seem to be having trouble participating these days) and am delighted to be back in touch!

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